More Science Talk
Steve: Hi, this is Steve Mirsky and this is a joint edition of Science Talk and 60-Second Science—and we're going to run over 60 seconds. Obviously the entire east coast has been walloped by this Sandy storm, and I am on the phone right now with Scientific American's editor in chief, Mariette DiChristina. And how are you, Mariette?
DiChristina: Hi, Steve. Well, we're doing okay here, it's a little bit more unpredictable than we're used to in a 167 years of publishing Scientific American, but everybody's hanging in.
Steve: I should point out that I am in the northern Bronx in New York City, and I was very fortunate to not lose power. We had very high winds, almost no rain really. Everybody to my right on my street lost power when a transformer blew and my lights just flickered but the power stayed on; and Mariette is up in Westchester County about 20 miles north of me. And you did lose power.
DiChristina: We did, we lost power and Internet, and Steve, when you just called me a few minutes ago, [you] were my first call when the Internet service was restored with phone service.
Steve: I am honored.
DiChristina: So was I.
Steve: So, let's talk about I am sure, you know, our faithful listeners and readers are curious about how we're functioning right now. So, can you bring us up-to-date on the Scientific American’s situation in the aftermath of Sandy?
DiChristina: So, Scientific American, for those who've been following us, [you] would have seen that throughout the hurricane and aftermath we've managed to keep our Web site updated every day. Our news team have been involved in that—special shout out to Robyn Lloyd, the news editor, who is stuck in Raleigh, North Carolina where she was attending the National Association of Science Writers annual meeting when the hurricane came by—so she has been running our news operations from there, and the staff had been working from home because our offices on Varick Street in Manhattan had been closed throughout this event. And the servers, which are not in New York—they are in Reston, Virginia—were not affected. So, we were able to keep the website up and humming. In fact, even yesterday, we ran a chat on the website, a live chat with an expert, to talk about the situation.
Steve: You know our offices on the corner of Varick and Canal, and as we saw on a street in the Wall Street area called Water Street—you know, these streets have historic names for [a] reason, and when the rivers and the harbors, decide that they're going to reclaim the parts of New York that they used to own outright, well it's not a surprise that places called Water Street and Canal Street start to find themselves underwater.
DiChristina: Right. There was serious flooding around the area of Canal and Varick where our offices are located, and they have been without power and closed for three days solid now; we haven’t been able to get in there. One of the challenges for us at this point, considering the magazine’s successful 167 year-history of continuous publication, is that our local servers—the ones that we use for the production of Scientific American’s print edition and Scientific American Mind’s print edition—have been unavailable to the production team, so we're a little bit behind for this month. We're not thinking that we're in any danger of missing our press dates, but it will be a bit of a scramble.
Steve: Right. So the ScientificAmerican.com effort is ongoing, although not everyone on staff is able to contribute because people are basically stuck at home, and if they have a power outage at home, they just can't get any material in. But everybody who can is trying to get stuff up on the Web site. And the print edition will come out as scheduled we hope; it's just going to be a scramble for us.
DiChristina: Right, we do expect this, as you know Steve, and for the benefit of the folks who are listening, we have staff editors in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, and even in Massachusetts. So, we have people who have been affected to a greater or lesser degree depending on where the storm hit them. In fact, I was speaking with Fred Guterl, our executive editor, a little earlier today, and he is working out of a library where he can get a Wi-Fi signal so he can keep his work flowing.
Steve: And he is in New Jersey.
DiChristina: Because his office power is out, 80 percent of the power, he said, is out in his town and around him in New Jersey.
Steve: Wow! And this just might be of interest to people: Our internal e-mail, we all have e-mail addresses @SciAm.com, and we can't use those right now, so we've all fallen back on our secondary e-mails, our Gmail accounts or whatever else people are using.
DiChristina: Right, we can still get e-mails internally which I realize for listeners is no help if you sent something to us at editors@SciAm.com, but you should know that if you did send a message from an external address to editors@SciAm.com those are spooling, they're being preserved, and when we can move off the email to a new server—which should happen in the next day or so; they're going to be testing it soon—those e-mails should start to be delivered to us again. So, we're not ignoring you, we really care about your e-mail, and we will get back you as soon as we can.
Steve: And on a personal note, your husband is a volunteer fireman. What's his life has been like the past few days?
DiChristina: Here in northern Westchester, things are very tree covered which we love, but the consequence of that is many of the trees have been falling. A lot of them still have leaves on them, so [in] the aftermath of the storm, branches are weakened and the folks here are doing the best they can to clear things out, and he's been very busy.
Steve: Well, I am glad that everybody by you is safe and sound and merely inconvenienced; we're a lot more fortunate than a lot of people who have been in the region.
DiChristina: Yeah, and a big shout out to everybody especially the emergency responders in the region who've been working so hard to help all of us get back to business as soon as we can.